Edinburgh-based online retailer snaps up English rival

The capital fancy dress firm, creator of the iconic Morphsuit, will target growth in Australia and the US following the acquisition. Picture: Contributed
The capital fancy dress firm, creator of the iconic Morphsuit, will target growth in Australia and the US following the acquisition. Picture: Contributed
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MorphCostumes, the manufacturer and online retailer behind the iconic Morphsuit, has expanded its footprint and is set to boost its international offering after swooping on a Yorkshire-based fancy dress firm.

The Edinburgh-headquartered costume maker has hit the acquisition trail with the purchase of Leeds-based business Fun Shack, marking the first step in a growth strategy that aims to build on its achievements of the last 12 months.

Revenue at the Scottish firm, which serves clients internationally as well as through its online platform and assorted retailers across the UK, increased to £12 million in 2018, a rise of £3m from the previous year.

Fun Shack, which was founded in Leeds by Jeffrey Fearnley and Harvey Felstone in 2008, designs, produces and sells a range of fancy dress outfits through the Amazon marketplace and other online retailers, as well as via a network of more than 200 shops.

The Yorkshire firm has 12 employees and recently recorded annual revenues of £3m.

MorphCostumes plans to export Fun Shack’s designs, which are primarily available in the UK, through its existing overseas distribution channels, targeting countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States.

Fraser Smeaton, chief executive at MorphCostumes, said the move follows several years of planning to acquire the English firm, which he believes will provide an enhanced offering with its “classic” fancy dress products.

He said: “Fun Shack has been on our radar for the past couple of years thanks to its range of good-quality costumes. They make outfits that are classics – they never go out of style.

“We believe its ranges of historical, storybook and many other classic costume designs will appeal to an overseas audience just as much as they have done to customers here in the UK.

“We already have the sales channels in place to take this business to the next level and we’re looking forward to integrating its products into our range.”

Brothers Fraser and Ali Smeaton founded AFG Media, MorphCostumes’ parent company, in 2009 with flatmate Gregor Lawson after a night out that inspired the invention of the world’s first Morphsuit: a skin-tight, head-to-toe spandex outfit that has grown to acquire an international reputation.

Some of the company’s most popular costumes now include characters inspired by blockbuster film franchises, such as superheroes Deadpool, Spider-man and Power Rangers, alongside official WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) outfits.

In 2012, growth investor BGF acquired a minority stake in AFG Media for £4.2m, with the aim of accelerating the company’s expansion.

Formerly known as Business Growth Fund, BGF describes itself as the UK’s “most active investor in growing companies” and last month announced it had provided more than £250m in initial investment and follow-on funding to businesses headquartered in Scotland since the fund was established eight years ago.